Friday, July 08, 2011

Don't worry about the money, Iain ...

Iain Dale writes passionately about the financial perils of being a parliamentary candidate and he is right to do so.    No matter how correct he is, I fear his warnings will fall on deaf ears as the issue of political recruitment is one where “the powers that be” make all the right noises without actually having any answers to it and, in some cases, making it more difficult for folk to get involved in politics.


David Cameron once said that he wanted a British Parliament that looked more like the people it represented.  The public anger towards politicians is about more than just expenses and betrayed promises; I believe strongly that part of the issue is the kind of people that end up becoming MPs.  More and more of our “representatives” are young, professional politicians.  The MPs of old had the route through Oxbridge and then via Daddy’s firm; the new breed of politicians are the think tankers, the well connected, the party goers and those with the disposable income and location to put themselves at the centre of the action.  Go out on the High Street near you and see how many people that pass you who look, sound or act like the average parliamentary candidate.


It isn’t just those without money , Iain.  It’s those who live too far from London to attend the right parties.  Those who have demanding jobs and cannot take weeks off to camp out at by-elections.   Those who have family commitments which mean you can’t dump the kids and dash off to conferences here there and everywhere.  Those who aren’t asked to pose for tattler or write for the Spectator.  We have a new generation of those “born to be MPs”.

Forget “diversity” as you know it.  Where are the MPs who were once firefighters?  What about the computer programmers or the restaurant owners?  Where are the teachers on the Tory side or the business leaders in the Labour ranks? 


Answer me this.


Michael is an ambulance driver.  He isn’t well paid and lives, with his wife and 3 kids, in a northern town.  He works a full-time, usually 6 days a week, and takes pride in caring for his family and his young children in particular.

Is Michael the kind of guy we want to stand for parliament?  If we do, what do you think his chances of getting selected and elected are?


Tom is a graduate from central London who earns a decent wage in a job that gives him flexi time and plenty of holidays.  He is single and has no kids.  He attends all of the party events and conference.  Using this he knows the right people and has the time and effort to put into the leg work.  Is Tom the kind of guy we want to stand for parliament?  If we do, what do you think are his chances of getting selected and elected are?

If we want a representative parliament we need Michael and Tom in parliament.  The trouble is that the system is so stacked against one of those candidates it isn’t just money we ought to be concerned about.


The cash rich have an advantage, yes, but so too do the time rich and the contact rich.  And what do the party machines plan to do about this?  Don’t hold your breath for anything to change too soon ... but we do need a national debate about how we support a more diverse group of people to stand for parliament and serve as our MPs.


Anonymous said...

Spot on. I was one of those recently "culled" for the Tory candidates list. I believe it is because I couldn't keep up with the london set. My job and family didn't allow it. I'm not saying I;m anything special but if we want Tory MPs to be mosre than just idetntikit lawyner clones with sensible hair we must do somthing about this.
Too late for me; I am walking away but I hope others take up the challenge.

Anonymous said...

You have a b***dy cheek writng this. You are a teacher with 13 weeks off a year. Try doing a proper full time job, in the labour party, and becoming a candidate without being a union man or a favourite son.

Peter said...

Antony. You have just got to look at the "millionaire" cabinet to find how unrepresentative the government is in terms of diversity.

Peter said...

The one thing I would like to mention about Iain Dale is that his difficulties encountered during his time as a Tory parliamentary candidate in 2005, and his failed bid to becoming one in 2010 was his lack of political understanding. To be frank he was a terrible candidate in North Norfolk, and made a truly pig's ear of it. He doesn't know anything about politics, and has been privileged to be well connected to Lord Ashcroft among others. I am surely not going to cry crocodile tears for Iain Dale.